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2001 is Isuzu Motor Ltd's 85th year, and the company is marking the occasion with a special Polar White Pearl Anniversary Edition Trooper. Also for 2001, Isuzu has re-introduced a two-wheel-drive Trooper at every trim level.
All Troopers are big, smooth-riding, and highly capable sport-utility wagons. The basic Trooper S is priced among the Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Blazer, and Jeep Cherokee; while with all available equipment the Trooper Limited moves closer to the luxury-SUV range, along with the Mitsubishi Montero and Jeep Grand Cherokee.
The Trooper's main attractions are an ultra-quiet ride on the highway, and steering that is light, linear and quick-traits more often associated with a luxury sedan. Crusing down the highway is the best job for the Trooper, which isn't affected by crosswinds as much as you'd expect considering its height. Wind noise is low for such a big vehicle.
The ride is steady and luxurious, approaching that of some more sophisticated SUV's with all-independent suspension-the Mercedes-Benz M-Class comes to mind. Even on the most pockmarked surfaces, the Trooper's live rear axle doesn't bounce around, and suspension damping is excellent.
But on secondary roads with twists and curves, we had to slow down more than we would have liked. The big Trooper doesn't have enough grip to whip through tight turns as you would in a sedan, or even in some sportier SUVs like Isuzu's own smaller Rodeo.
The smooth-revving V6 is quiet and responsive. But the Trooper is not as quick as the top luxury SUVs. Toyota Land Cruiser, Land Rover Discovery, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Mercedes-Benz ML 430, GMC Yukon Denali, and Ford Expedition all offer V8 engines. If you value bragging rights, it's hard to justify the Trooper Limited in a market full of monster-motor alternatives.
The Trooper's power seems to get somewhat lost in the behavior of its four-speed automatic transmission. The automatic downshifts abruptly when you open the throttle, and it feels like there's a delay between the time you press the accelerator pedal to the time the Trooper takes off. A Power Mode switch on the console allows the engine to rev higher between upshifts, but we found it didn't appreciably improve acceleration performance. There's also a Winter Mode, which lets the Trooper start out in third gear to preserve traction on slick surfaces. Lack of traction is not a problem in the Trooper, however.
We've driven Troopers with five-speed manual transmissions, which shift quickly and surely, and prefer this setup to extract maximum power from the 3.5-liter engine.
The brakes work smoothly with little wasted motion in the pedal. They also provide enough feel of the road surface that you can modulate the amount of braking easily. This is handy off-road, especially when you are left-foot braking on slick surfaces. Anti-lock brakes are standard, which you expect in this price range.
One curious feature is a switch that folds both side-view mirrors against the doors, making the Trooper a few inches narrower. A holdover feature from Japan, the power flapping mirrors are useful for tight parking lots or for waving at your friends.
The optional four-wheel-drive system, called TOD for Torque On Demand, consists of an electromagnetic-operated clutch that progressively engages the front driveshaft and axles based on signals received from electronic sensors that detect things like axle speed and throttle position.
That means you can leave it in four-wheel drive on dry pavement and the axles won't bind up when you make tight turns in a parking lot. Although this is technically a full-time system, the transfer case lever has a position for rear-drive only (as on the Mitsubishi Montero's full-time system). In rear-drive mode the front hubs disconnect from the front axles, allowing the front tires to spin more freely, saving fuel and wear. When you shift the transfer case into low range, the electromagnetic clutch engages fully, providing the locked-up four-wheel-drive preferred for serious off-roading.
A loaded Trooper costs serious money, but the truck's high quality of assembly seems to justify the price. The Trooper feels like it is worth what you spent. The controls work smoothly and with positive feedback, sounds are muted, and there are almost no extraneous squeaks or rattles when you charge down a rutted road. Because of the sensitivity of the steering, throttle, and braking controls, you feel better driving the Trooper on icy and greasy roads and trails, confident th
Isuzu Trooper offers a high-quality driving experience and spacious cabin, although the top-level Trooper Limited lacks the V8 power found in other luxury SUVs. If roominess and a smooth ride are high priorities, the S and LS models should leave you feeling you spent your money wisely.